THOUGHTS ON DESIGN
Paul Rand; E. McKnight Kauffer [Introduction]: THOUGHTS ON DESIGN. New York: Wittenborn, 1947. First edition. Quarto. Trilingual edition, with French and Spanish translations. Black cloth decorated in gilt. 164 pp. 94 halftone illustrations and 8 color plates. Photographically printed dust jacket. Book in fine condition. Jacket mildly age-toned and edgeworn, with lightly chipped spine ends and a couple of short, closed tears. One of the nicest copy that I have handled -- please refer to page 217 of Steven Heller monograph PAUL RAND (Phaidon 1999) to view the usual condition when this book is normally found. A nearly fine copy of a very desirable title.
This is --quite possibly -- the most desirable Graphic Design book ever published. After a decade of establishing himself as the wunderkind of the emerging field of Graphic Design, Paul Rand sat down to codify his beliefs and working methodology into a single volume. THOUGHTS ON DESIGN was the result.
8.5 x 10.75 hardcover book with 164 pages, 94 halftone illustrations and 8 color plates. Trilingual edition, with French and Spanish translations. From the dust jacket: "Rand is aware of the complexity of the designer's function: he stresses this again and again. He has no patience with slickness, with facility; he is a severe critic of the hackneyed and the insincere. All this is dead wood to be cleared away."
If the word legend has any meaning in the graphic arts and if the term legendary can be applied with accuracy to the career of any designer, it can certainly be applied to Paul Rand (1914-1996). By 1947, the legend was already firmly in place. By then Paul had completed his first career as a designer of media promotion at Esquire-Coronet --and as an outstanding cover designer for Apparel Arts and Directions. He was well along on a second career as an advertising designer at the William Weintraub agency which he had joined as art director at its founding. THOUGHTS ON DESIGN (with reproductions of almost one hundred of his designs and some of the best words yet written on graphic design) had just published -- an event that cemented his international reputation and identified him as a designer of influence from Zurich to Tokyo.
A chronology of Rand's design experience has paralleled the development of the modern design movement. Paul RandŐs first career in media promotion and cover design ran from 1937 to 1941, his second career in advertising design ran from 1941 to 1954, and his third career in corporate identification began in 1954. Paralleling these three careers there has been a consuming interest in design education and Paul Rand's fourth career as an educator started at Cooper Union in 1942. He taught at Pratt Institute in 1946 and in 1956 he accepted a post at Yale University's graduate school of design where he held the title of Professor of Graphic Design.
In 1937 Rand launched his first career at Esquire. Although he was only occasionally involved in the editorial layout of that magazine, he designed material on its behalf and turned out a spectacular series of covers for Apparel Arts, a quarterly published in conjunction with Esquire. In spite of a schedule that paid no heed to regular working hours or minimum wage scales, he managed in these crucial years to find time to design an impressive array of covers for other magazines, particularly Directions. From 1938 on his work was a regular feature of the exhibitions of the Art Directors Club.
Most contemporary designers are aware of Paul Rand's successful and compelling contributions to advertising design. What is not well known is the significant role he played in setting the pattern for future approaches to the advertising concept. Rand was probably the first of a long and distinguished line of art directors to work with and appreciate the unique talent of William Bernbach. Rand described his first meeting with Bernbach as "akin to Columbus discovering America," and went on to say, "This was my first encounter with a copywriter who understood visual ideas and who didn't come in with a yellow copy pad and a preconceived notion of what the layout should look like."
Rand spent fourteen years in advertising where he demonstrated the importance of the art director in advertising and helped break the isolation that once surrounded the art department. The final thought from THOUGHTS ON DESIGN is worth repeating: "Even if it is true that commonplace advertising and exhibitions of bad taste are indicative of the mental capacity of the man in the street, the opposing argument is equally valid. Bromidic advertising catering to that bad taste merely perpetuates that mediocrity and denies him one of the most easily accessible means of aesthetic development."
In 1954 when Paul Rand decided Madison Avenue was no longer a two-way street and he resigned from the Weintraub agency, he was cited as one of the ten best art directors by the Museum of Modern Art. The rest is design history.
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, a pioneer typographer, photographer, and designer of the modern movement and a master at the Bauhaus in Weimar, may have come closest to defining the Rand style when he said Paul was "an idealist and a realist using the language of the poet and the businessman. He thinks in terms of need and function. He is able to analyze his problems, but his fantasy is boundless."
Spreads from this volume can be viewed here.
out of stock